Sunday, May 19, 2013

Boswell's Sunday Bestsellers, Week Ending 5/18/13. Dan Brown, Books from the Grad Table, Plus Links to the Journal Sentinel Reviews.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Inferno, by Dan Brown
2. Red Moon, by Benjamin Percy
3. A Delicate Truth, by John Le Carre
4. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
5. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
6. The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud
7. The Conditions of Love, by Dale Kushner
8. The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
9. Leaving Everything Most Loved, by Jacqueline Winspear
10. Maya's Notebook, by Isabel Allende

Well, Mother's Day season officially ended last Sunday, but the strong female fiction still dominated in positions held, with seven of the top ten slots held by women. Regarding Americanah, the new novel from the author of Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, Maureen Corrigan raved on Fresh Air: "Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written a big knockout of a novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color; but, as Adichie has said in interviews, she also knows that black women's hair can speak volumes about racial politics."

I can't exactly say whether Inferno, Dan Brown's new release, drove other folks into the store, or whether it was folks in town for graduations from UWM and Marquette, but whatever it was, our bestseller numbers were quite good this week for hardcover fiction. Regarding Brown's newest, Molly Driscoll at the Christian Science Monitor has done the grunt work of collecting reviewers responses. It varies from best book yet, to worst book. I have to say, mixed reviews of a groundbreakingly successful thriller series like this is a triumph--when someone's this big on the commercial level, expectations are high and there is always someone who wants to knock you down a peg. 

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris (nonticketed event is 5/26, 2 pm)
2. Gulp, by Mary Roach
3. The Guns at Last Night, by Rick Atkinson
4. Cooked, by Michael Pollan
5. Letters to a Young Scientist, by E.O. Wilson
6. Country Girl, by Edna O'Brien
7.  Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo
8. Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown
9. Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
10. Mom and Me and Mom, by Maya Angelou

Definitely the hit of the inspirational picks on the graduation table (and there seem to be more of these every year) is E.O. Wilson's Letters to a Young Scientist, which I know has been what our young scientist, Halley, has been recommending. We're also doing particularly well with Mary Roach's Gulp, having more than tripled our sales of 2010's Packing for Mars (and doubled Bonk sales for Schwartz on Downer in 2008). Here's an interview with Roach from Busines Insider. How much food can you eat before your stomach bursts?

Papeback fiction:
1. This Most Amazing, by Jenny Benjamin
2. Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
3. Jail Coach, by Hillary Bell Locke
4. Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
5. The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller
6. The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
7. The Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka
8. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
9. Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal
10. Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple

I met with several book clubs this week. One came with their list prepared, but we wound up tweaking it a bit. Another was working at our book club table, and knowing one of the participants, we started chatting about suggestions. But my favorite was a young couple who simply wanted to read the same book and talk about it--a mini book club of two. I gave them a few suggestions, expecting they'd tell me which direction to go to from there, but they wound up gravitating to Peter Heller's The Dog Stars. Anyhoo, that's partly how Julie Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic wound up on the list this week. It's great for an intense club that wants to have the rich experience they demand in a month where they are time crunched.

Paperback nonfiction:
1. Bossypants, by Tina Fey
2. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
3. I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar,  by Sharon Nichols
4. Bits and Pieces, by Barry Blackwell (event is July 10, 7 pm)
5. A Merry Memoir of Love, Sex, and Religion, by Daniel Maguire

I have to check with Jason as to whether I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar was a group purchase to one person or really popped that successfully off our graduation table. The book is actually from 2009. It's actually a variation of the popular Lonely Planet book Signspotting, with photos of bad grammar that were originally posted to a Facebook page. I looked at Ingram and saw they have a mess on order at the Indiana warehouse, so it appears this book might be quite the sleeper. Look at you, St. Martin's Griffin, acting like you're Chronicle or Workman or something.

Books for Kids:
1. The Lovable Dragon, by Barbara Joosse with illustrations by Randy Cecil
2. The Hollow Earth, by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman
3. Eggs 1-2-3, Who Will the Babies Be?, by Janet Halfmann, with illustrations by Betsy Thompson
4. Mice, by Lois Ehlert
5. One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake
6. Squirrel's World, by Lisa Moser, with illustrations by Valeri Gorbachev
7. Railroad Hank, by Lisa Moser, with illustrations by Benji Davies
8. Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King Jr's Final Hours, by Ann Bausum
9. Kisses on the Wind, by Lisa Moser, with illustraions by Kathryn Brown
10. Oh the Places You'll Go, by Dr. Seuss

I should note that nine of our top ten bestselling books on this list came from our Women's Club of Wisconsin event featuring area children's book authors. I was chatting with Ms. Joosse about the success of The Lovabye Dragon (we've sold way more of this title than any of her others since we've been open) and how there will be at least one more title that follows the friendship of this princess and her dragon.

Carole E. Barrowman is #2 on our kids' list this week, but she's also featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Paging Through Mysteries" column for four new releases. His Majesty's Hope features a female spying in training in World War II. Barrowman says "To write with energy and suspense about a period of history where many trod before can be a challenge, demanding a fresh perspective and an intimacy among characters so readers care about them as much as the world they inhabit." Her mom also recommends this one.

Ace Atkins, who was just in town at Mystery One promoting his new Spenser novel, Robert B. Parker's Wonderland, has a recommendation from Barrowman for The Broken Places, the newest in a series featuring Quinn Colson. She calls this "evocative tale of revenge and redemption plays out in Biblical proportions near a town called Jericho."

In Owen Laukkanen's Criminal Enterprise, a  once-successful businessman turns to robbing backs to pay the bills and finds he likes it, in that sort of "Breaking Bad" kind of way. Barrowman's take? " This book may be a chilling allegory for our disturbing economic times, but it's also a slick cinematic thriller that kept me reading long into the wee hours."

Finally, Barrowman gives a shout out to the popular spy thriller, Chris Pavone's The Expats, now in paper. "With every stunning reveal, readers are drawn deeper into a tangled web."

I mentioned earlier that Jason really loved the new Adichie novel, Americanah. Mike Fischer in the Journal Sentinel is a bit mixed, feeling the story has a bit of an identity crisis. However, "despite this novel's identity crisis, Adichie's willingness to try something different — and her insistence on posing questions that matter — is bracing. Discussing race, this novel takes real risks — and challenges us to do the same with each other."

And also in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins' this week explores an offbeat book that nonetheless fascinates me as well. It's The World's Strongest Librarian,  the memoir of a Salt Lake City, well, librarian of course. From Higgins: "If Hanagarne had published his memoir a year earlier, Mitt Romney could have handed copies out on the campaign trail to demystify public anxieties about Mormonism. Hanagarne experiences both the high and lows of belonging to a church that prizes close-knit community and also stresses obedience. A low point comes when the LDS Family Services turns down Hanagarne and his wife, Janette, for a possible adoption, based on a pair of short interviews with a 23-year-old intern. Hanagarne's Tourette's, late-blooming work history and passion for Mark Twain (not the Mormon world's favorite American writer) are all possible reasons for the denial."

I'm so glad Mr. Higgins brought up this book, as I really wanted a place to link to the NPR "Teenage Diaries Revisited" series the one that featured Josh Cutler,  a once teen, now adult, who is living with Tourette's Syndrome, and is currently on leave from teaching because another teacher felt threatened by his behavior. It's a really powerful segment. I think you should listen to it right now. 

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